The report for an investigation into a fatal crash involving South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will be made public, officials announced Tuesday.
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Gov. Kristi Noem is promising a higher-than-typical level of transparency and openness into the investigation of fatal car crash involving South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
The governor and Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price in a joint news conference said the investigation into Ravnsborg’s involvement in a Saturday night crash along Highway 14 in Hyde County will be turned over to the public, something that isn’t typically done in South Dakota but will be in this case due to Ravnsborg’s status as a high-ranking elected official.
“We offer every situation the same standard of investigative procedures that we would any other person, but we are adding an extra level of transparency and accountability that I think is necessary in this case,” Noem told reporters.
Price, whose department oversees the lead investigating agency in the case, the state Highway Patrol, said Noem has directed him to make public the findings in the case. And when asked if that will include audio recordings or transcripts of any 911 calls, dash cam footage or other materials used in the investigation, Price said they would be released “at the appropriate time.”
Still, few new details were being shared yet.
Price said investigators from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, brought in to conduct interviews in the case, are still working on the case. A third-party crash investigator from Jackson Hole, Wyoming named John Daly has also been hired to aid in the case, he said.
The medical examination for the victim, 55-year-old Joseph Boever, was conducted and completed in Ramsey County, Minnesota, as South Dakota’s go-to pathologist was unavailable.
Findings from Boever’s autopsy aren’t being shared at this time.
More: Jason Ravnsborg: What we know about fatal crash involving pedestrian
Ravnsborg said in a statement released late Monday night that he believed he had struck a deer while traveling to his home in Pierre Saturday from a Spink County Republican Party event, but discovered Boever’s body when he returned to the scene the next morning.
Tire tracks are visible on the side of the highway on Monday, September 14, where Joe Boever’s truck sat Saturday night when he was killed while walking back to the vehicle outside of Highmore, SD. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was involved in the fatal crash. (Photo: Erin Bormett / Argus Leader)
Ravnsborg said Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek was on the scene both Saturday night and Sunday morning, and in both instances instructed him to go home.
“At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” Ravnsborg said in his statement.
The Highway Patrol was notified of the crash Sunday morning.
Volek twice declined to speak with the Argus Leader, once by phone and once on property he owns in outside of Highmore just yards from where Boever’s body was recovered.
Boever was walking to his truck on Saturday night to repair it, his cousin Victor Nemec told the Argus Leader. The vehicle had been damaged when Boever hit a hay bale on Friday night when he drove the vehicle off the road while reaching for his tobacco.
Nemec said he and his cousin planned to fix Boever’s white Ford pickup Sunday morning, but at some point in the evening, Boever decided not to wait and began walking to his truck.
Nemec called the Hyde County Sheriff when he couldn’t find Boever on Sunday morning.
Authorities haven’t said whether speed or alcohol contributed to the crash. Ravnsborg and Republicans who attended the Spink County Lincoln Day Dinner, including county GOP chairman Larry Nielson, have said the attorney general was not drinking alcohol at the Saturday event.
Price said investigation details are being turned over to the Hyde County State’s Attorney’s Office, which will determine if charges should be filed in the case.
Ravnsborg has not been placed on administrative leave during the investigation and, according to the office of the Attorney General, was working in his official capacity this week.
Typically, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), which falls under Ravnsborg’s oversight, would handle cases involving public officials.
Neither Noem or Price could give an estimate on how long wrapping up the investigation might take.
“We shoot to do a good, thorough complete investigation,” Price said, adding the department has “all hands on deck.”
Noem declined to answer a question about whether Ravnsborg should remain on duty while the subject of a potential criminal investigation, saying that he has no contact with the case and DCI is not involved.
She also wouldn’t say if she knew beforehand that Ravnsborg planned to release his statement Monday evening or describe her initial reaction to learning that Ravnsborg is involved in a fatal crash investigation.
Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, told the Argus Leader following the news conference that the governor and Price have disclosed as much information as they are able to without jeopardizing the investigation.
“They’re overseeing an investigation and have to be impartial,” he said. “They provided what facts they could and didn’t answer what they couldn’t.”
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